© Patrice Girod / ScienceFictionArchives.com
In 1980, Jeff Mann, after a Bachelor of Arts degree, California State University at San Francisco was in the right place, with the right skills at the right time. George Lucas had just relocated Lucasfilm and his special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to the San Francisco Bay area to expand his filmmaking pursuits and Jeff Mann was hired by ILM to design and build spaceships and creatures for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He then worked on such feature film as Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV The Voyage Home working on numerous spaceship like the U.S.S. Reliant, the U.S.S. Excelsior, U.S.S. Grissom and even animatronic humpback whales. He also contributed to the imploding house in Poltergeist; E.T.’s spaceship; miniature landscapes and trains for Starman; the alien spaceship in Cocoon; the kid’s spaceship for Joe Dante's Explorers, the opening credit sequence with a miniature train and set for Out of Africa; as well as multiple miniature sets and water effects for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
ILM continued to grow and in 1985 Jeff Mann expanded his responsibilities and became Creature and Model Supervisor, overseeing animatronic characters on Ghostbusters II; animatronic and make-up transformations on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; large-scale miniature trains in Back to the Future Part III; 1/4 and 1/5 scale aircraft for Steven Spielberg's Always and miniature sets and spaceships for Disney’s park rides Star Tours and Body Wars. In 1987, he served as liaison between ILM and the offices of Gene Roddenberry, in the early stages of the development on Star Trek The Next Generation series.
In 1992 Jeff Mann became Director of Production Operations, overseeing all of physical production and post production for the company. This was in the beginning of computer graphics and he was in charge of incorporating these new, groundbreaking techniques into the ILM lineup with significant contributions to such films as Mission Impossible, Forrest Gump, Congo, and Schindler’s List.
Jeff Mann was also put in charge of post production operations that encompassed all feature and commercial editorial groups, as well as Film Scanning and Recording, and production departments that included all stage and film operations, creature and model shops and the camera and camera engineering areas. These areas were greatly broadened to accommodate the expanded shot count of Star Wars Episodes I, II and III. During that time, Jeff Mann successfully managed the production schedules, budgets and resources of multiple projects.
In 1998 he became Vice President of Creative Operations for the Studio and part of ILM’s senior staff. For many years he managed all of the key creative talent on film projects and directly collaborated in establishing the direction of the company both creatively and technically on numerous projects like Pirates of the Caribbean, Terminator 3, Van Helsing, Minority Report, Harry Potter 1 and 2, Men in Black 2, Gangs of New York, The Mummy & The Mummy Returns.
He also developed a Character Design Group for feature film and led the design effort on such shows as The Mummy, Frankenstein, Mission to Mars and Curious George, and prepared the Digital Matte department to accommodate a massive volume of digital environment work in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith by expanding the department and overseeing the adoption of advanced software and hardware.
Finally, Jeff Mann participated in The Story Group, which was formed to develop internal digital features and would later became Lucasfilm Animation and which ultimately handled the CGI cartoon Star Wars : The Clone Wars.
In 2008 Jeff Man joined Laika Entertainment as Project Producer to analyze their production process on the movie Coraline and to bring production methodology ideas to the slate of films that Phil Knight and Laika had in development. In 2009, he became Vice President of Studio Operations of Method Studios with a managing director role, overseeing all aspects of VFX film and commercial studio operations in LA and NY on film projects include I’m Here for Spike Jonze, Nightmare on Elm St. for Michael Bay, Tree of Life for Terrance Malick, Let Me In for Matt Reeves as well as numerous commercial projects.
Jeff Mann made a few cameo appearances in movies. He was also the first person to undergo movement capture in film history. For that occasion, he was dressed in a white leotard with black electricians tape marking the joints and skeleton as reference to animate the first realistic computer generated character in a film. His performance as the stained glass knight in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes was directed by John Lassiter and Dennis Muren. He can also be spotted in as a whaler at the harpoon cannon in Star Trek IV The Voyage Home.
Jeff Mann lives in Ojai in California and is involved in Fine Art, Concept Design and consulting services to the entertainment industry.
Jeff Mann is part of the Friends of ScienceFictionArchives.com, and thus supports our mission to preserve iconic Sci-Fi items.